Black Anvil Achieves Black Metal Rebirth on “Regenesis” (Interview)
United States Black Metal (USBM) mostly doesn’t get as much recognition or praise as its Norwegian or Scandinavian peers, but when it comes to black metal in the stateside, New York City’s Black Anvil have been a driving force in the genre since its 2007 formation. With a new record label in Season of Mist and a new full-length album in Regenesis, the NYC collective has embarked on a new chapter.
Black Anvil was formed by members of New York hardcore band Kill Your Idols with the impetus for taking a different musical direction. Featuring vocalist/bassist Paul Delaney, drummer Raeph Glicken, guitarists Jeremy Sosville and Travis Bacon, Black Anvil have taken their love of black metal and morphed it with dark gothic overtones and doomy atmospheres. During a recent phone interview, Delaney talked about the band’s formation, their new album, their current tour with Cannibal Corpse, and more.
After you left Kill Your Idols, what did you want to achieve with Black Anvil?
The three founding members, Gary [W. Bennett II]’s no longer in the band, he left a few years ago. Him, myself and Raeph were in Kill Your Idols for years. But we always wanted to do something heavier, something metal. Kill Your Idols were done; I was doing a different band. Gary had a side thing going on called Deathcycle, and I just sort of bamboozled my way into that band, because I just wanted to play with Gary again. I had some ideas in my head and we put something down on tape and contacted Raeph. The three of us hadn’t been in the same room for years. I sent him the song with me on drums and the next day I picked him up, went to the studio and we wrote our first song. That was the beginning of it. We didn't know what to expect, we figured we’d just make a demo, put it on online and have fun. And the next thing you know, we’re writing a record and Relapse is going to put it out. It snowballed pretty unexpectedly. But it was something we always wanted to do creatively. In the early 2000s, what was going on with black metal inspired me to push these guys to go that direction and to just take on some new shit. Celtic Frost getting back together was huge. I really loved that they just rebranded and reinvented themselves and came out swinging. It was just like an awakening of sorts and it got us to where we are now.
How would you describe Black Anvil’s musical blueprint?
I thought about that… I was reading a couple of reviews for the new album today and I keep seeing “blackened thrash” or “thrashy black metal,” and I don't get that. I don't I understand it. (The) earlier days maybe one song had a faster thrash or hardcore drum beat, but it just seems like that stuck and there's creative cop outs when it comes to describing a band’s sound. When it comes to inspiration, I really like digging into what we've written in the past and just take on all things I'm listening to. Not in the sense where I rip stuff off, but just listening to a lot of music inspires me. The lyrical themes, that's its own animal that has nothing to do with an outside influence. Digging into the past a little bit here and there; I'm always citing bands like Kiss, Metallica and heavy metal across the board. And coming up in hardcore having bands like Madball, Outburst, Breakdown; all this aggressive and heavy shit. How do we take all the stuff that we've grown up a part of playing and make it more sinister and make it fit with this vision inside? And this is just how it comes out. I consider ourselves a black metal band. The inspiration musically is really across the board. I could be listening to Sunny Day Real Estate and there’ll be something that gives me an idea. We really like to keep the creative door open when it comes to inspiration. But I think a lot of the real meat comes from really deep within.
Black Anvil is self-dubbed as New York black metal. What's the current New York scene like as far as black metal is concerned?
To me, there is no actual scene in New York. We wave that flag because it's our brand of sorts. But there's no scene, there's no brotherhood. Upon doing a new venture in life, we didn't really feel the need to have to go and befriend all these new metalheads that hang out at bars and move to New York or this or that. No disrespect, we have a lot of friends. But for us, my scene is very close knit and it's a very tight circle. And it doesn't really have anything to do with our music, our people are our people. I think that's important, just being who you are and having people accept you for who and what you are. I'm the black sheep of my circle of people, but I've always been. We're pretty isolated and we just sort of do our own thing. Funeral Leech is a band that's pretty new, but there's a friendship there. There's a handful of others and there's a ton of other people, but I don't feel as a unit that we really fit in with any other bands.
The US black metal scene may not receive as much attention as the genre does in Scandinavia or Europe. Do you notice this?
Yeah, and very generally speaking, I think a lot of stuff coming out of the states is just not as unique as a lot of bands from Europe. There's a lot of copycat (bands). There's a fair share of bands I actually enjoy from America. But I feel the overall title of USBM that people think, “poseur,” because it's not Scandinavian or it's not European. And that was a big thing for us, too. I didn't want to mimic a sound, so let's just do this our way. I think some bands fail at trying to emulate things, and there's a real low ceiling when you're just doing something like that. Bands like Wolves in the Throne Room are huge, and can do whatever they want creatively. I don't know much of their music, but I have immense respect for the fact that they've done what they've done.
With your third full-length album Hail Death, you created quite a buzz within the genre and the band’s profile rose and led you to obtain numerous prominent tours and festivals. Did you notice this period of time as a rise in the band’s trajectory or progression?
Yeah, the first record was really important. We would just show up and be happy to be writing music together. It's like one and done. The second record created a little of… now we have to think about this and write a record. And we did. And by the time we were writing with third one, it's a pretty important one, because to me, that's a real launchpad. We chose a different producer, we went with this guy J. Robbins (Jawbox, Burning Airlines). He's made some great records. I really liked how organic his recordings were and his production is. His musicianship, he's a psychotic guitar player; very talented. I thought it would be a really good mix, and it ended up being a great one. It was very different for us, it was very different for him. And those songs needed that treatment. And when we wrote the songs we didn't really worry about time or how long the song was or if we were going to implement a clean vocal here and there, which is always such a fucking issue with people that there's some actual singing on a record. Which I don't get, again. But Hail Death, we just sort of actually did whatever the fuck we wanted. And it worked. I'm very happy with it. It's a long record, but looking back like anyone's art, you can maybe want to change this and add and move this around. But overall, I think it was very liberating for us to open ourselves up and just not be bothered by what people say. That sort of opened up the playing field for us to just sort of grow a bit and be who we are. It did propel us.
On your fourth album, As Was, did you consciously change your musical approach?
With earlier albums, there was always something missing from the demos we did at home. Now we have a really good system, but it's still really a DIY process. And there's always something that just is missing when we would make the albums. They would come out sounding huge. And there's tons of huge role albums out there, but ours just weren’t raw enough. Hail Death was very organic and sounded like us live. But it was just missing this supernatural element that I would dial in on a computer demo and Necromorbus (Tore Gunnar Stjerna) came to mind. Two or three songs into As Was, I thought, “I wonder if he would make a record for us?” We reached out to Necromorbus, we know him from Watain, and also for Mayhem. Necromorbus is the guy that can keep the dirt there and still make you sound huge. But you don't have to sacrifice the weird ambiance that you captured on the fly that can't be replicated in the studio. He could make that sound better. We were supposed to actually record with him, and we didn't get to just because of logistics. So we had to figure out an alternative process, which was tracked in New York. And we tracked with Colin Marston at his studio and shipped it off to Sweden for him to mix and master. And it's perfect for us. What he captures is how I always envisioned us to sound. And I didn't think he could get better. And with Regenesis it did. We let him take a little more control. We loved As Was so much that we just went again with the same two; Colin and Necromorbus. It's everything that's in my head that I can't articulate, he makes it happen. And it's quite special considering that he's on a different continent.
I think Regenesis encapsulates a lot of everything that you've done previously. Did you try anything differently or explore other avenues with your songwriting compared to As Was or previous albums?
We finished writing this at the end of 2019. The plan was to sign with Season of Mist and record in the spring, and we all know what happened in the spring for the last couple of years. Looking back at what we've done, we wanted to streamline and tighten up the box a little bit. I realized that I needed to use my limitations as sort of my inspiration. Because I'm a pretty limited musician; I know what I'm capable of. I know my role. At times I catch myself being a one trick pony when it comes to writing, my fingers don't always work like a guitar player. But I realized I need to take this little box that I'm in, and I need to use that as my sort of inspiration to be more creative. Just being very aware of myself and my limitations was really big for me. That was something with writing this record that I had in mind. How do you naturally write, but also be mindful of what you're doing? You don't want it to be forced. But you also want to really pay attention to it and dial it in. I think I was just excited enough that it all worked that way. Just being immersed in it and always thinking about it constantly. Having it be my obsession and just letting it rule me, I think was a bit different. We had time and I think we've managed to present something that is a bit refined, but also not a step backwards in the least.
Does Regenesis represent a new chapter of your life because I believe that word actually means renewal?
It 100% does, even the aesthetic of the band. Everything is completely different. The theme was something that was knocking on the door and presenting itself quite a lot. In many ways, Hail Death, As Was and Regenesis are like a trilogy. Even the titles of the albums alone you can see the cyclic theme there. But this is really a new start for us, and it feels that way. It almost feels like starting from the beginning in having two to three years of not doing anything at all. It's just coming out the gates from the beginning again. I'm very happy to do that, because I'm very happy with the product that we put out there.
The album cover art by Jean-Emmanuel Simoulin of Metastazis is simplistic but displays a dark, mysterious vibe. It’s a bit of a modern take on M.C. Escher-esque in a way. With the album title’s meaning, does it tie into the infinity sign design?
It does! One of the initial drafts was an actual infinity sign but we wanted something a bit more brutal. It just needed to be a little more punishing. I had an image I'd saved in my phone from the Bhagavad Gita. It's just an artwork based on reincarnation, and it's really beautiful and great to look at. It was just the inspiration. I sent that to another artist that I was a really big fan of in hopes for a painting; we really wanted to get a painting on this album cover. And I think maybe the language barrier for whatever reason, he didn’t want to replicate it. I think he was missing the point, but I'm glad he did because I was able to get some more momentum going. And coincidentally, there's lyrics about the labyrinth and maze. We got a little deep into thinking about this. We gave him notes and jotted down images and he asked us if he could take a different direction with it. He wanted to try something in 3D. After that little tweak, we had his first draft, which was a little back and forth. And then he fucking delivered this and there was no changes made to it. It’s really striking and jarring for me. It's very intertwined, much like the art itself.
You're currently on tour with Cannibal Corpse, Dark Funeral and Immolation. That's a great lineup. How did you get on the bill?
We all have the same booking agent. We got the offer and it was a no brainer. Knowing that we would have a new album out, it just worked in our favor. We've toured with Immolation a bunch. They're really an important band to us and they're some of the best people we've ever encountered in our lives. It's a very diverse, well rounded package. I think Cannibal Corpse and Dark Funeral all together is sort of unexpected. And that comes from the mind of Nick Storch, he put this whole package together. He's a genius when he looks at his roster. One (band) just sort of one gives the other a little bump up. These shows have been massive.
Regenesis was released on November 4th, 2022 via Season of Mist.